CONCERT REVIEW: JOHN PETRUCCI Brings The Power of Three at The Hackensack Meridian Theater, NJ (October 12th, 2022)

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If you want blazing progressive metal guitar pyrotechnics and star wattage all on the same stage in one night, look no further than John Petrucci‘s headlining North American Tour. The 28-date North American tour kicked off on October 5th in Providence, RI, and concludes in Toronto, ON, on November 17th.

John is promoting his 2020 solo album, “Terminal Velocity” since he could not adequately support it due to the pandemic and its lockdown. John is joined by legendary bassist Dave LaRue and former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy on this tour, as they also played on the album. It is the first time he and Mike will have played on the same stage since Mike‘s departure from Dream Theater in 2010. Opening for John is the all-female thrash metal band, Meanstreak, which features the wives of three Dream Theater members.

Meanstreak opened the show, and if you are unfamiliar with them, they are the world’s first all-female thrash metal bands. Formed in 1984 and were active until 1994. They are touring to celebrate their 30th anniversary. The band features Bettina France [vocals], Martens Myung [bass], Yael Rallis [drums], Marlene Portnoy [guitar], and Rena Sands [guitar]and has one album to date, “Roadkill.” They  performed several songs off that album and one new tune. They opened with “Giant Speaks” and quickly established the band’s music with the crowd. Where John‘s music is in the prog-metal genre, Meanstreak is a straight-up, in-your-face metal. Guitarists Marlene and Rena provided the dual-guitar bombardment and played off each other nicely, while Bettina worked the stage with her smooth yet powerful voice. The band will return to the studio soon to work on a new album! They are not to be missed when going to the show.

MEANSTREAK Photo Gallery:

John, Mike, and Dave appeared on stage at Hackensack Meridian Theater [formerly Count Basie Theater], a minimalistic stage setup. Dave‘s bass rig and John‘s amps were neatly placed on either side of Mike‘s drum riser with a giant abstract artwork backdrop behind them. No video screens, pyro, or smoke were needed to enhance these talented musicians’ performances. They clearly wanted the audience to pay attention to what they were doing. It was all about the music and the band’s performance.

The set list was a combination of songs from John‘s two solo albums, “Terminal Velocity” and “Suspended Animation. The band opened with “Terminal Velocity” and never looked back for their 90-minute set, which included “Jaws of Life,” “Gemini,” “Out of the Blue,” and “Glasgow Kiss” as the encore.

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Photo by Robert Cavuoto

Regardless if the crowd of guitar enthusiasts knew John from Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, or his solo work, they were all there to see this legendary guitarist in action, no matter what he was playing. They may know his songs or watched him perform on YouTube, but it doesn’t do justice compared to watching him live. Witnessing his masterful and complex guitar techniques in person was awe-inspiring. His playing style stretches the boundaries of rock, jazz, progressive, and blues sometimes achieved all in the same song. He seamlessly utilized guitar effects that changed his sound, shaped his tone, and bent the pitch. Knowing that he also had to remember all the notes and guitar phrasing for each song was mind-bending.

John was armed with his signature Ernie Ball guitars, and everything was done with the touch of his fingers. His playing is a diverse expression of power and vigor that combines the precision of his unfaltering right hand and the technical intricacies of his left. Watching it all come together to form his signature style of speed, agility, and melody is nirvana. John is also a prolific songwriter, so there shouldn’t be any doubt why he is one of our generation’s greatest guitarists and musicians. He blazed through a series of songs that showcased his abilities, from the soulfulness of “Damage Control” to the hauntingly breathtaking “Out of the Blue” to the shred-fest of “The Happy Song.” All of his songs were based in metal with extremely melodic grooves and leads that had progressive structures. It is well known that John approaches songwriting from a lyrist’s point of view and is always thinking about the melody similar to a vocal line.

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Photo by Robert Cavuoto

Dave is a master of the bass, with all ten fingers constantly moving at breakneck speed. His playing on each song was like a mini bass solo with an incredible amount of notes per measure, sometimes even mimicking John‘s guitar playing. All done in a tasteful way to balance the guitar and yet playing in the pocket of Mike’s drumming.

Mike is a powerhouse drummer and visual player. Fans may have seen him play with Dream Theater, The Winery Dogs, or Sons of Apollo, but this is the first time they have seen him play like this. Tonight, he got a tremendous workout behind the kit, which elevated his BMPs and raised his brain cognition to new heights. He dazzled the crowd with his complex drumming techniques while seamlessly pounding out the rhythms to keep perfect time.

The three were in lock step and instinctively knew each other’s mannerisms, bringing the songs to life like a well-oiled machine. All parts are equally as essential and intricate to the sum of the whole. Somehow, they made their style of playing look easy, but in reality, the technical proficiency of their playing was out of most people’s reach!

The show at the Hackensack Meridian Theater was the band’s sixth show of the tour, and it was a mind-altering and eye-opening experience for everyone in attendance tonight. It’s a must-see show that you have to add to your concert list. John, Mike, and Dave took the audience over the musical edge with their innovative playing. The common thread running through the performances, regardless of the song, was the passion and emotion applied to them. As artists, they have honed and mastered their craft and delivered it to us, the fans, with heart and soul.

Tickets can be found HERE.

JOHN PETRUCCI Band Photo Gallery:

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